Yet More Vandalism

by Jesse Galef

Just in case you wanted another opportunity to discuss the vandalism of atheist ads, there’s another incident in Boston:

Vandalized Boston CoR Ad

It… kind of makes sense? Not completely sure what they were going for.

My friend Hemant over at FriendlyAtheist pointed out a hilarious coincidence that the vandals could have exploited: If they put a single period in the web address, instead of going to the Boston Coalition of Reason, visitors find themselves at the Church of Resurrection website. Almost as funny as when people make a mistake trying to get to Whitehouse.gov…

About Jesse Galef

Jesse is a career atheist, and is currently Communications Director for the Secular Student Alliance. Before that, he worked for the Secular Coalition for America and the American Humanist Association. He also blogs about science, philosophy, and rationality at Measure of Doubt with his sister Julia.
(The views expressed are not representing the Secular Student Alliance or any other organization.)

  • Custador

    To be honest, I think it draws attention to the ad. Thinking people will think “Oh, right, it’s an atheist ad that’s been written on”. Theists who would have been annoyed by it in its original form will instead get a moment of smugness. It’s all pretty harmless either way.

    • Elemenope

      Fairly harmless, except for the outside chance that it reinforces the notion that it is acceptable to vandalize ads with ideas one disagrees with (socially acceptable, that is, not morally, which is a different question).

      • Custador

        It’s better than a death-threat anyway!

        • Elemenope

          Indeed.

      • Kodie

        I live in Boston and never NEVER see most other posters vandalized on a bus or subway – maybe I am riding the wrong lines? I think the last time I saw an ad with writing on it was one of the ads for Stop ‘n’ Shop home delivery (the female model looked stoned and someone made it so she was having stoned thoughts).

        I sit on buses with ads for the Hope Church and tempted to vandalize them, but don’t. Those insipid little C.S. Lewis quotes get on my nerves, and nobody seems to mind them or get outraged enough to take out their pens to it. I saw a different CoR poster vandalized, it was the only one I’d seen, and it was marked. Someone had taken a ball-point pen and taken the time to draw and shade in a large question mark after the word ‘are’. Like, yeah dude, there are many of us. I liked the ad because it reminds me that it’s not like a small handful of us. The vandal seems to think that number is an exaggeration, or that he cannot believe we are good (or can be).

        So yeah, it is sort of a big deal that people are vandalizing these posters. I don’t think this draws people’s attentions despite being vandalized – I think it makes them think it’s ok to mock and marginalize us, where it’s not ok to mark up posters about churches, prayer/philosophy classes, and other stuff like adult education, vegetarianism, or even maid service for helpless college kids. If losers whose parents pay to have their laundry tended to and meals delivered aren’t mocked but atheists are, there’s something messed up here. It angers people enough to take out their pen and write their feelings out – it’s kind of a threat. I take it as a threat; people just don’t want to hear about atheists, live alongside us, acknowledge us. The vandalism to the poster is an assault – if the vandal could tell who was an atheist by looking at you, that’s what his or her reaction would be. He can’t, so he attacks the poster.

        I have never lived in a religious area – I think the areas of New York and Massachusetts where I’ve lived are pretty well-rounded, not too many bible-thumpers and homogeneous fundamentalist expectations. Even religious people shut up about it mostly. This vandalism makes me think I don’t have it as good as I thought, compared to some of you living in areas of the US South and really heavily Christian areas.

        • Kodie

          There are two Hope Church ads that I’ve seen on the buses – there may be more.

          One has this quote in large lettering:
          “The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us; just as the roof of a sunhouse does not attract the sun because it is bright, but becomes bright because the sun shines on it.”
          C.S. Lewis

          The other one has this quote in large lettering:
          “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”
          C.S. Lewis

          This one also looks familiar – I may have seen it a few times:
          “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
          C.S. Lewis

          These poster ads are running constantly on at least three of the buses I frequently take, I don’t know about the rest of the MBTA or how they dole these ads out. Proclaiming God exists and all that stuff. On my bus. And nobody ever puts a mark on them.

          • Elemenope

            Meh. Those are annoying, certainly, but one can go far worse than C. S. Lewis.

          • Siberia

            Insipid indeed. Mr. Lewis seems to have been infected with a particularly naughty flavor of smug self-righteousness. Bleh.

        • Elemenope

          I have never lived in a religious area – I think the areas of New York and Massachusetts where I’ve lived are pretty well-rounded, not too many bible-thumpers and homogeneous fundamentalist expectations. Even religious people shut up about it mostly. This vandalism makes me think I don’t have it as good as I thought, compared to some of you living in areas of the US South and really heavily Christian areas.

          Conversely, this is precisely why I can’t bring myself to consider this some sort of threat. As you say, the Boston area is diverse enough, religiously speaking, that being an Atheist is rarely an issue at all. Which leads to this particular incident being simply a pathetic manifestation of a frustrated and desperate theist lashing out in the only method remaining, because all other means of lashing out (violence, harassment, exclusion) have become socially unacceptable.

          On the other hand, if this were Alabama, it would not only be business-as-usual, but also more threatening, precisely because the other methods of lashing out are (somewhat marginally) more acceptable than they are in Boston.

          • Kodie

            I’ve seen a couple of these signs, not too many. They’re all vandalized by the time I lay my eyes upon them. I guess that was the point. Unless it’s just the one vandal who rides all the trains and buses marking them, it leads me to believe this is what more than a few people think is fair game for their sharpie markers. I don’t think this is a small deal, even if it’s a small number of people. The ad incites this feeling like no other ad, it does not go unmarked. Maybe I don’t see enough of these ads as I would like, and maybe if they multiplied, vandals couldn’t keep up with them.

            As for the C.S. Lewis quotes, I’m sick of seeing them so much. You could say they are rather weak, but I feel similarly assaulted when I have to see them all the damn time. I would like to see more atheism posters. I am not normally someone who wants to cram atheism down people’s throats, but then I am sick of the religious ads, and feel unsettled by still how unaccepting a rather moderate population is of atheism, as I’ve often found out when I reveal it to someone. I’d basically like the world to know there are a lot of us and we are just people, not demons, not freaks, not Amway salesmen. This same population doesn’t bat an eye at the supernatural claims of C.S. Lewis, and the church who places those ads ad nausaeum.

            • Elemenope

              As for the C.S. Lewis quotes, I’m sick of seeing them so much. You could say they are rather weak, but I feel similarly assaulted when I have to see them all the damn time.

              Fair enough. I didn’t mean to imply it was somehow illegitimate to be offended by them, only that it could be much worse. If they’re resorting to the mealy mouth of C. S. Lewis, they’ve already resigned themselves to the squishy Christianity route that quickly disintegrates into agnosticism; his platitudes tend not to be much an emotional balm.

              Unless it’s just the one vandal who rides all the trains and buses marking them, it leads me to believe this is what more than a few people think is fair game for their sharpie markers.

              Could be either. One time I got dragged up to Salem for one of those silly but entertaining Halloween festivals by a girlfriend (I went dressed as a boy scout), and there was this dude with a board hanging around his neck rather artistically depicting a great fiery chasm being bridged by a cross, with many tiny people walking over it to the light. Didn’t think much of it at the time (except that the sign was aesthetically pretty cool). Then about a year later, on a train in Boston, I saw the same dude with the same sign. Then, two years later, in New York, on a subway, same dude, same sign. Those dedicated evangelistic dudes sure do get around.

              ———

              Perhaps someone should go around with some easy-remove stickers and on each vandalized poster, stick one that says ‘WWJD? Clearly, vandalism.’

            • Kodie

              Speaking of which, and I think I mentioned it before, it might have gotten buried… a few months ago, I noticed an act of Christian sticker vandalism. While walking into a convenience store, at my eye height, I saw a small bright red sticker on the door, no bigger than a common address label. It had a lot of words for a small sticker, and my eye went right to it – it didn’t need to be a billboard. It was anti-abortion in sentiment. I am paraphrasing a bit, but it went like, as long as abortion is legal, god will give up on the US. Following that statement was information about the sticker itself – where to get your own roll and how many were on the roll. I couldn’t peel it off with my fingernail, but the next time I went back someone had scraped it off with a razor.

              So basically, they have a fear, and they are so motivated to act on that fear by gluing their pre-printed messages to private property advertising how to get your own vandal kit, and how prolific they plan to be with the stickers. To their, uh, credit, I guess, that was the only sticker I saw on the whole street, and I’ve not seen another one. Is Tedeschi invested in pro-choice organizations?

              In my own mind, I have got it together to get myself to kinkos before it’s too late, and print out a batch of stickers that say “he” in the same color and font as the Hope Church uses, to alter the C.S. Lewis quote to “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because he is not there. There is no such thing.”

              I once found a card on my seat about Jesus and hope, and I wrote on the back, god is imaginary, and replaced it on the seat for the next rider. Sometimes I feel like printing up my own cards too, but eh. It seems kind of douchey. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

  • http://www.cleanslateproject.wordpress.com Anthony D Jacques

    I love how Christians can justify anything in the name of God. Don’t like a billboard, just vandalize it. Don’t like abortion, kill an abortion doctor or bomb a clinic. Don’t like Jews, just take Martin Luther’s advice and and beat the Hell out of any one you happen to see. Praise Jeebus.

    P.S. What’s wrong with Whitehouse.gov? Seems fine to me.

    • Elemenope

      I love how Christians can justify anything in the name of God. Don’t like a billboard, just vandalize it. Don’t like abortion, kill an abortion doctor or bomb a clinic. Don’t like Jews, just take Martin Luther’s advice and and beat the Hell out of any one you happen to see. Praise Jeebus.

      To be fair, the things you list are all vastly minority acts among Christians, and most are not even approved in any way by them.

      P.S. What’s wrong with Whitehouse.gov? Seems fine to me.

      If you didn’t know it was supposed to be a ‘.gov’ site and tried the normal ‘.com’ instead…

  • http://www.nonsensitivity.blogspot.com Lessica

    I’ve been seeing a lot of stickers with the words ‘Jesus Saves’ in public places lately.
    I’m incredibly tempted to write ‘ – and rolls for initiative!’ next to them, but I haven’t had a good opportunity, or the nerve.
    And yes, I know I stole that from somewhere. Props to whoever originally came up with that.

    • Elemenope

      The version I’m familiar is “– everyone else takes damage.” Same idea, though.

    • Jabster

      Nah … go for “but Drogba scores from the rebound”

      • Siberia

        Or “but Cthulhu pwns”…

      • Custador

        No! The correct follow up to “Jesus Saves!” is and always will be “Moses with the rebound! It’s a GOAL!”

        • http://metroblog.blogspot.com Metro

          No, surely it’s “Jesus saves. Moses invests in bonds”?

  • sweet lemons

    This reminds me of the billboards that had those fake Christian quotes from the Founding Fathers. I don’t recall anyone vandalizing those, and they were flat out lying.


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